AUGUSTA, Ga. – Lee Westwood heard the ground-shaking roars for just about everyone but him on a Saturday that sounded an awful lot like Sunday at the Masters.
Phil Mickelson made consecutive eagles, and came within inches of three in a row. Tiger Woods battled back from a seven-shot deficit with three straight birdies to stay in the game. Fred Couples chipped in for eagle, keeping his hopes alive.
Westwood kept his head down amid all this madness and wound up with what mattered – the lead.
With his best chance ever to win that elusive major, Westwood made only one bogey and finished with a tough par for a 4-under 68 to take a one-shot lead over Mickelson into the final round of a Masters that keeps getting better.
'I think I'm ready,' Westwood said.
By the look of the names behind him, he better be.
Westwood, No. 4 in the world and among the best without a major, was at 12-under 204. He will be in the final group with Mickelson, No. 3 in the world and the sentimental favorite at Augusta given his turbulent year at home with his wife and mother battling breast cancer.
Right in front of them will be Woods, No. 1 in the world and playing as though five months of a humiliating sex scandal never happened. He finished with a 3-foot birdie on the last hole for a 2-under 70, putting him at 8-under 208 along with K.J. Choi, who also had a 70.
'I think that's what everybody wants to see,' Westwood said. 'Everybody has missed Tiger on the golf course the last five or six months, and he's up there. Phil is up there. You've got 4, 3 and 1 in the world. It's a good leaderboard, I think.'
Just as exciting as the names were the cheers, too many to count.
It got so crazy at one point that in the time it took Westwood to play the 11th hole with a hard-earned par, Mickelson made up four shots on him with an 8-foot eagle putt on the 13th and holing out a wedge on the 14th.
Ricky Barnes holed an eagle from off the green and knocked in a 60-foot birdie putt across the 14th. It never stopped.
'It was probably one of those great days in golf at a major championship,' Westwood said. 'I obviously wasn't privy to the things you have seen, but I was well aware somebody was making a charge, and I figured it was Phil. That's what major championships are about. They're tough ones to win because great players do great things.'
The Masters hasn't seen a leaderboard this strong for the final round since Woods and Mickelson - Nos. 1 and 2 in the world - were in the final group in 2001.
Mickelson hasn't looked great all year, the first time since 2003 he has come to Augusta without a victory. His spirits have been lifted in part by having his family - wife Amy and the three kids – with him for the first time since The Players Championship nearly a year ago, right before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Amy Mickelson has not been to the golf course.
'It's fun having them, just being together,' he said. 'It's been a fun week.'
Fun doesn't even begin to describe Saturday.
The course was not meant to yield so many fireworks – not one shot better than 67 – yet the quality of the play was superb. Westwood did his work on the front nine, rolling in a bending birdie putt at the first, hitting a 4-iron just over the bunker to 10 feet on the fourth and slowly starting to pull away.
Then came the first of big cheers, from all corners of the course, so many that it was hard to figure out what they meant.
'You couldn't figure out who was doing what because there roars happening simultaneously throughout the course,' Mickelson said.
Couples was walking off the 14th tee when he motioned at Mickelson to get it going, and Lefty obliged.
He hit a 7-iron to 8 feet on the 13th, and the eagle putt produced such volume that Westwood backed off his putt on the 11th.
'It was pretty funny because we were texting a little bit about how low I was going to have to go to catch him and maybe play with him tomorrow,' said Couples, who was in the final group when Mickelson won his last Masters in 2006. 'For a time, we were both playing pretty well. But then he went eagle-eagle-birdie, and that's a pretty big jump to get going.
'Once again, I just love this place.'